As we head (virtually) to Mexico City for the next three days, we’ve been reflecting on how the Generation Equality Forum can support real feminist change. Can this innovative process deliver new momentum for gender justice?
This multi-sector global gathering in Mexico City will launch an ambitious agenda to advance the rights of women, girls, and non-binary people. Governments, civil society, philanthropic organizations, and private sector representatives will meet again in Paris in June. The strategy is that new resources, energy, partnerships, and commitments will deliver long-overdue progress on gender equality.
The Generation Equality Forum is convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France. Originally scheduled for last year (and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women), COVID-19 prompted these new dates. Over the last 18 months, discussions from the local to the global levels have explored what is possible and what new commitments can best catalyze change.
Here are three things the Equality Fund hopes will take centre stage at Generation Equality Forum Mexico. We’ve drawn inspiration from our grantee partners.
1) Key actors and commitments recognize the central role of feminist movements in driving change
For decades, feminist movements have been driving change at every opportunity, from local streets to the halls of the United Nations.
Zeina Abdel Khalek, Collective for Research and Training on Development Action, highlights the “relentless efforts of CSOs working on women’s rights in Lebanon,” bolstered by the international movement represented by the Generation Equality Forum. Likewise, Laurel Weldon’s research on feminist mobilization finds a complementary relationship between domestic feminist mobilization and international feminist activism and institutions like UN conferences.
Generation Equality Forum Mexico is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of feminist movements and to make concrete commitments to supporting their work. To date, global investments in gender equality have overwhelmingly flowed to governments and international organizations. The role of feminist organizations in mobilizing for change, holding governments to account, incubating new leaders, changing social norms (and more) deserves more recognition.
2) Deeper action on inclusivity and shifting power in the Generation Equality Forum process
International spaces like the Generation Equality Forum must be inclusive and generate solutions led by and for women and girls in all their diversity.
Razafinjato Fela, Association des Femmes Handicapées de Madagascar, explains how Malagasy women with disabilities were afraid to show up and speak out at the Beijing Conference on Women because of the prejudice and discrimination they suffered. Courageously breaking down this barrier, they are calling for Generation Equality Forum participants to meet the unique needs of women with disabilities. Such actions would help realize the dream expressed by Pratima Gurung, National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal, of “a world where all Indigenous women with disabilities have equal and meaningful participation so that no one is left behind.”
Youth leaders just released a Young Feminist Manifesto. This document outlines concrete recommendations to shift power to youth within the Generation Equality Forum process and beyond. Instead of tokenistic participation, they demand decision-making, leadership, strategizing, and co-ownership roles. They explain how intersectionality means recognizing and analyzing power dynamics and systems of inequality and intentionally working to counter them. All while modelling a transformative way of working, one that “centers co-leadership, co-ownership, and co-creation.”
3) Bold new funding commitments to resource feminist movements
According to the OECD, less than 1% of global official development assistance for gender equality and women’s empowerment reaches women’s organizations. The Generation Equality Forum has the potential to dramatically change this statistic.
Francophone women’s fund XOESE is asking for more and better funding for women’s organizations, who are best placed to achieve gender equality results. Riya William Yuyada, with the youth-led organization Crown the Woman South Sudan, reminds us that funding should be flexible because the work itself is flexible, adapting to a variety of needs as they arise. The Young Feminist Manifesto calls for core funding for youth- and adolescent girl-led organizations and financial support for youth activists’ participation in international spaces like the Generation Equality Forum.
The Equality Fund is proud to be among Prospera’s international network of women’s funds calling on Generation Equality Forum participants to commit at least 50% of all funding pledges to fund autonomous, women-, girls-, and trans-led feminist organizations and movements, directly or through women’s funds. Feminist funding mechanisms exist and are ready, now, to scale up multi-year, core funding to feminist work globally.
Hearing from our grantee partners motivates us to ramp up our ambitions. This first Generation Equality Forum plays an important role in building momentum and defining multi-sector commitments for gender equality work over the next five years. We must centre feminist organizations and movements in this emerging agenda. The ambition of the Generation Equality Forum will only be realized if feminist activists—including youth, LBTIQ+, and Indigenous voices—are driving the analysis and prescriptions for change.